History & Activities

History of Le Bokor Palace

Le Bokor Palace is the main building of the Bokor hill station in Cambodia’s Kampot province. The location choice at 1000up meters altitude to provide the settlers tired of the hot weather in Cambodia, especially during the dry season and avoiding repatriation to the metropolis.

Le Bokor Palace is the “heaven” for French. It was the famous summer escape for the French elites and royal family.

Le Bokor Palace on the edge of the cliff which steeply overlooks the maritime coast of Cambodia, so called “Opal Coast”. Enjoying a moderate climate and unusually picturesque location.

François Marius Baudoin, Résident-supérieur, to decide creates a “health resort” on Bokor Mountain is part of the Elephant Mountain range of Cambodia in 1912. The building set up at the green mountains and the blue sea, near the cliff. The best location offers a bird's eye view of the “Opal Coast”. as well as the grand mountain views.

On November 18, 1919, the construction works were granted to the Boy, Fermé & Cie. The cost of the project is 160,000 USD, for a period of 8 months, to build a bungalow, a chalet for Résident-supérieur, a post office and telegraphs on the Bokor hill station.

From 1920 to 1922 , He change the project from “Bungalow“ to “Palace”, The completed building has been demolished, only the cost of the palace reached 311,872 dollars. Many critics say this project is “wasting” was buried in fog, the palace will be nicknamed the “Baudoin Folly”.

The art deco architecture influenced by the Modernism is entirely made of concrete. It is an imposing three-story building of Palladian architecture, embellished with Italian style.

Le Bokor Palace have a huge fireplace, an elegant small lounge, a vast dining room and 18 large rooms equipped with all modern comforts and even electric heaters. These rooms lead to large terraces and pergolas, when the weather is good can see the magnificent “Opal Coast”.

The hotel was inaugurated on Valentine’s Day in 1925. The lavish six-course menu included gazpacho, “US-style” crawfish, rich foie gras served cold and strawberries from the Emerald Valley served with Chantilly cream. The last guest didn’t leave until 5am.

At that time, Bokor hill station had the agricultural station grows strawberries to served dessert for hotel guests as well as grows all kinds of European vegetables and the imported cows produce fresh milk for hotel guests.

The two main factors make the hotel was “failure”, these are mist and building deteriorating. The station is only habitable during the dry season, for a maximum of six months and the heavy rains on this ridge subjected to the influence of the sea, the building failure very quickly.
Because of these factors, in 1926, a year after it was opened, the Société des Grands-Hotels Indochinois abandoned the deficit management of the palace. The hotel stays closed for several months. It reopens at the end of 1926. The management is again ensured by Mr. Joannot, director of the Select Hotel of Phnom-Penh, but on behalf of Jean-Marie Antonini, director of Charterers Réunis.

The hotel is closed again in 1928. It reopens the first of February 1929. The hotel has been “strict control” since 1930 and must be opening from February to June; During the remaining bad season, make sure to provide “essential services” to guests. In the 1940s, it takes the name of “Mont Bokor Hotel”.

The First Indochina War in 1946, the hotel would be used as a military hospital. Then, difficult to defend, the hill station is abandoned in 1950. The palace is ravaged by Khmer Issarak “The Black Dragon”. During the 1950, the hill station no longer has any water or electricity. Until the end of the year 1960, the building was burnt, windows and doors were burned black.

The new “City of Bokor” was inaugurated for the second time in January 1962 by King Norodom Sihanouk. The hotel managed by the “Khmer Royal Society Inns”, it has 22 rooms and four apartments with modern comfort, a spacious lounge with bar, a large restaurant.

Following the overthrow of Sihanouk in 1970, the station is closed again. In 1972, the Khmer Rouge took control of the Bokor Mountain. In the early 1990s Bokor hill station was still one of the last strongholds of Khmer Rouge.

The peace accords in 1993, a battalion of French peacekeepers took possession of the building and set up a telecommunication station, taking advantage of its geographical location.

After the civil war, Bokor was forgotten, leaving only traces of war, forest reborn, therefore, was called "ghost city". Until 1997, the first tourists return.

did you know?

Bokor Mountain, discovered in 1917 by a permanent mission in charge of topographical surveys on the Elephant Mountain heights nearby Kampot, is now a mountain health resort. A beautiful two-storied structure, toughly and neatly designed, called the Palace-Hôtel, has a commanding presence, embellished with decks and Italian-style pergolas. Located 1005 meters above the sea, on the edge of the cliff which steeply overlooks the maritime coast of Cambodia, so called “Opal Coast”. Enjoying a moderate climate and an unusually picturesque location, the new resort, though still completing its organization, as being recently founded, has already deservedly won the hearts of its visitors.
Author/Source Dr Vallet. Director of Cambodia’s Health Service, 1925

Besides mildness of a nearly Mediterranean temperature, Bokor Mountain combines the advantages of both seaside and mountain alongside by stimulating effect of its saline humidity and freshness of its germ-free air, enable blood regeneration, and regain strength and health which make Bokor Mountain a suitable to persons weakened by living in a tropical climate. The effect of this double treatment is quickly sensible, through increasing appetite, by a better blood-flow. Especially children feel, after some days in the resort a mostly appreciable change in their general condition.
Author/Source Dr Vallet. Director of Cambodia’s Health Service, 1925

Bokor As A Health Resort
“Bokor, considered as a medium-altitude resort, as being located 1000 meters above sea level, is directly exposed to prevailing seasonal winds, Southwest monsoon in summer and Northeast in winter.”

“In any season, travelers ascending to Bokor get a feeling of intense well-being: fatigue due to lowland heat disappears, breathing is easier, and vital power seem to increase. No more breathlessness, no more perspiration, and for persons who was fatigue of walking in town, then cheerfully wander on the plateau.”

“Someone who lost appetite is suddenly hungry. Another, who could not sleep anymore, feels relaxed and sleeps again. The person who feel so relieved that they spend their time to sleeping or eating. It can be asserted that almost everybody after some days they will regain lost strengths.”
Author/Source Dr Vallet. Director of Cambodia’s Health Service, 1925

However, in order that a weakened body feels long-lasting changes, they must stay at least one month. The cold season, from November to April, is highly recommended. During this period the temperature fluctuates from 24°C (75.2°F) to 14°C (57.2°F), and can sometimes drop to 12°C (53.6°F), and exceptionally under 10°C (50°F). There is no humidity at all and the coolness of this dry atmosphere is both pleasant and mostly healthy. As Bokor is situated in a monsoon, so which is the best area at least for sick people as for tourists, they will enjoy beautiful sunny periods, and try interesting mountain promenades.

As a matter of fact, Bokor is not only a health resort; picturesque landscape enthusiasts can contemplate remarkable sites. As the mountain is approached on its coastal side the ascent follows cliffs, neighboring tall tree wild forests.
Author/Source Dr Vallet. Director of Cambodia’s Health Service, 1925